By ERIN MILLER
Kona Community Hospital has hired a consultant to begin preplanning a replacement for the Kealakekua facility.
Hawaii Health Systems Corp. CEO Bruce Anderson said the initial phase, which includes talking to community stakeholders about what kind of services the hospital should offer, where it should be and what services should continue to be offered in South Kona, should take about a year. After that, securing funding, planning, design and construction could take another three to five years.
“Everyone agrees a new hospital is needed,” Anderson said, adding the HHSC board is supportive of the West Hawaii Regional Board’s planning efforts.
West Hawaii Regional Board President Dr. Alistair Bairos said residents have said for decades a new hospital, located closer to Kona International Airport and the area’s faster-growing neighborhoods, is West Hawaii’s No. 1 need. The Queen’s Medical Center, researching the idea of building on Hawaii Island in the 1980s, concluded even then the Kealakekua hospital would need to be replaced.
This planning effort is the farthest such discussions have gotten in Bairos’ memory, he said. He said his optimistic estimate to see construction completed would be eight years.
HHSC requested $300,000 from the state Legislature last year for planning, but did not receive it, Anderson said. The corporation did get “sufficient funds” from legislators to begin what he described as preplanning. The hospital hired Peter Adler as the facilitator for the early planning work.
Kona Community Hospital officials Wednesday said they planned to make an official announcement about the replacement hospital on Tuesday.
At least one landowner offered the hospital property above the Kaloko Light Industrial Area, Anderson said.
Sen. Josh Green, D-North and South Kona, North and South Kohala, said the ideal location would be immediately above the airport.
He said the existing hospital could remain open for emergency and long-term services, as well as oncology and chemotherapy services.
Anderson said no decisions have been made about what services to offer, but the South Kona community probably would have enough need to keep an emergency room in South Kona.
New West Hawaii residents often don’t understand why the hospital was built in the current location, Anderson said.
Kealakekua was the central location in Kona until the past few decades, he added.
HHSC will also need to work out how to coordinate services offered at a new hospital with North Hawaii Community Hospital and other medical providers.
Email Erin Miller at firstname.lastname@example.org.